Whether you’re running a dedicated COVID-19 content strategy, or just trying to moderate your team’s group chat, here are a few tips for separating fact from fiction
The amount of data the average person is asked to understand is mind-boggling. Largely thanks to the internet, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data were unleashed in 2017 alone, according to Forbes Magazine. The World Economic Forum predicts that by this year, there will be 44 zettabytes of data available to people.
Social media and searches make up a vast proportion of data directed at informing the general public. Sixty-five billion messages are sent on WhatsApp, 4 petabytes are created on Facebook, 500 million tweets are sent, and 5 billion searches are made in a single day – simply put the amount of data being digested is extraordinary.
Separating fact from fiction is increasingly becoming difficult – for charity digital leaders the effect is two-fold: the need to tell audiences facts which adds transparency and, to make decisions based on evidence.
A guide to fact-checking content, we outline some of the ways charity digital leaders and staff can ensure that the right message gets across.
Fact-checking someone who is quoted in an article, press release, or social media content starts with verifying identify. In separating out fake from real news, check the message’s content for spelling errors of the speaker – fabricated sources may have names spelt two different ways or have different titles. In addition to checking names, the Content Marketing Institute recommends corroborating identities with social media profiles – LinkedIn and company websites can support evidence.
For very serious digital content matters which need to be communicated accurately, The Atlantic, a well-respected US-based magazine suggests getting in contact with the source. Once in contact, confirming the quote or message to the speaker can give exceptional comfort for charity digital leaders passing on the same message.
What is being said?
Charity digital leaders and marketing and communications teams should also take care in fact-checking what is being said. Messages can be opinions or facts, and for charity digital leaders looking to pass on the right resource, it’s important to verify opinions versus reality.
For facts, verification websites and trusted sources can assist. Charity-owned fact-checker Full Fact is a UK-based organisation lending impartial evidence for areas of public interest. Specifically, the charity’s online focus is on “economy, crime, health, immigration, education, the law, and Europe.” The charity also publishes round-up fact-checking articles so that digital resources can be easily found.
When and where has the information been published?
In an era of fake news, leading indicators of ‘fake news’ can come from sources that appear authoritative. Websites publishing online content can be authenticated by checking the URL link. Harvard Summer School recommends checking the domain name – credible websites usually don’t have names ending with “.com.co.” Language and tone can also be a telltale sign – too much punctuation (i.e. “?????” or “!!!!!!”) or strong political agendas can indicate illegitimate news. The educator also recommends checking when a publication was released – older stories may be published but not relevant.
Content on real, verifiable websites typically also link to other sources where they have obtained the information. Fake websites and content typically don’t quote news sources, informed statistics, or studies.
Charity digital leaders can turn to online resources for fact-checking
Our last tip for fact-checking – charity leaders be wary! Keeping a healthy dose of scepticism in your mind goes a long way. Visiting resources to ensure that charity content does not contain false information can help. Below we mention leading charitable fact-checkers and resources in the UK and around the world:
Full Fact – An authority in the UK, the charity was set up in 2010 to keep politicians and media true, and protecting the public from misinformation. The charity also provides an online digital toolkit aimed at helping audiences discern fact from fiction.
UK Government: Offering a short, easy to understand guide to fact-checking, the UK government’s SHARE acronym stands for ‘Source, Headline, Analyse, Retouch, Error’. Importantly, the SHARE checklist also offers tips ton checking whether images have been retouched or manipulated.
Channel 4 FactCheck: Aimed at verifying news sources, the FactCheck website is an investigative publication. Assessing current news, FactCheck debunked rumours on social media around how long the coronavirus can survive on surfaces.
BBC Reality Check: Similar to Chanel 4’s initiative, the BBC’s Reality Check looks a news and social media to bust viral myths.
Poynter and the International Factchecking Network: Launched by The Poynter Institute, the Florida-based journalism school, the International Fact-checking Network is a collection of initiatives aimed at correcting fake news. The website offers a search function to help narrow down fact checks for a wide-range of topics. For a more comprehensive check, the site offers charity digital leaders more information than the BBC or Channel 4’s sites.